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New & Noteworthy
Best-selling author Miriam Horn of the Environmental Defense Fund brings her timely book Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman to life in a new documentary. Narrated by award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw, the film highlights five surprising “conservation heroes” working to protect the land they love. rancherfarmerfisherman.com
A Daily Gift
In Gift and Task: A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections, renowned Old Testament scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann provides daily reflection on scripture. Beginning with Advent, Brueggemann invites readers to critically consider the “cost and joy of discipleship.” Westminster John Knox Press
Do No Harm
No Place Like Home
DURING THE HOLIDAYS, many of us go home. But home can be a tricky place these days. Pass the coffee and the pumpkin pie, but could we please skip the conversations with relatives who disagree with us about immigration, racism, climate change, and, well, pretty much everything?
Nope, says Katharine M. Preston in “An Experiment in Neighborly Love.” In a time of intense polarization, “talking exclusively with those with whom we agree simply hardens our positions and makes us angrier,” she writes in this issue. Instead, she challenges us to an “experiment”: gathering people with a wide range of ideological views to listen to one another. Some may see this practice as “hopelessly passive, naïve, and a waste of time,” she admits, but building empathy across the partisan divide could go a long way toward ending the cycle of alienation and frustration that makes people susceptible to fear-based rhetoric.
Our cover story offers another kind of homegoing.
What Can Churches Do to Respond to the Opioid Crisis?
In June, Bishop Ed Malesic of Greensburg, Pa., released “A Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis: From Death and Despair to Life and Hope.” In it he outlined several “first steps” that parishes could take in response to the region’s opioid epidemic.
IT'S NOT ONE of the Bible stories people often talk about. The tragedy of Tamar, a young woman who was raped by her half-brother and told to “be quiet” while those in authority refused to seek justice on her behalf, is recounted in 2 Samuel 13. We learn in scripture that Tamar became “a desolate woman.”
Letters to the Editor
New & Noteworthy
Filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis use their backgrounds as activists and artists to create Whose Streets?, a gripping documentary about the Ferguson uprising. Through scenes of hope and resistance, Whose Streets? reclaims Mike Brown’s story and shows Ferguson through the eyes of those who experienced it. whosestreetsfilm.com
New & Noteworthy
Piety’s Dark Side
Love the Sinner is a short documentary narrated by queer filmmaker Jessica Devaney, who grew up in a conservative evangelical church. In the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, she takes a hard look at the connection between Christianity and homophobia. lovethesinnerfilm.com
Crisis and Conscience
Simone Campbell, Kelly Brown Douglas, Jacqueline M. Hildago, George “Tink” Tinker, Kwok Pui-lan, Jim Wallis, and others write about the “confessional crisis” of our political era and possible faithful responses in Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump. Edited by Miguel A. De La Torre. Orbis
A Lifetime Adventure
Calling All Years Good: Christian Vocation throughout Life’s Seasons explores calling as something we wrestle with not just as young adults but “from infancy to old age,” combining social science insights with practical theology. Edited by Kathleen A. Cahalan and Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore. Eerdmans
John M. Perkins, co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association, has spent decades working for a gospel that is inseparable from racial and economic justice. In the memoir Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, he reminds us, “It all comes down to love.” Baker Books
Letters to the Editor
D.L. Mayfield’s article (“Church Planting and The Gospel of Gentrification,” July 2017) hit home and is an important conversation. Out of economic necessity after a bout of homelessness, I moved into a neighborhood jokingly referred to as “meth alley” by the uptown people. Our neighborhood health statistics were dismal because of poor access to anything resembling fresh food. When we became the object of “saving” by some churches from the other side of town that wanted to be missional, they didn’t ask us what we needed. We became the project of outreach by young, white, educated, privileged religionists intoxicated by their specialness. The exuberant youths were quite clueless that we had some wisdom about what our neighborhood could use. Most were from two local Bible colleges and had grand ideas about urban outreach.
They planned a hipster coffee shop that the evangelical whites with privilege would use as a base of operation, providing tutoring to our youth. They believed they would open their doors to the unfortunate of my dismal neighborhood and we would come flooding in to be saved by their great goodness from our great need.
I just wanted to recover and get a job. What my saviors failed to see without exception were my strengths—my resilience, the gifts I wanted to bring to my community, and my long experience with making do in the most hostile of circumstances. They could have asked, and I would have told them patiently, but they weren’t listening because they knew all there was to know about poverty and how to fix it.
I didn’t have the gas money to get to church; they were going to Hawaii for a break from us.
My suggestion: If any church or Bible college wants to be missional, ask the community what they most need. Ask who the community leaders already are and help them! Jobs and microloans to small neighborhood businesses are a place to start. Transportation opportunities to those jobs and access to good food are tangible helps. Without giving neighbors the dignity of being understood as people that have much to contribute to our own communities, being “missional” alienates and harms.
Thanks to Danny Duncan Collum for introducing me to Jessi Colter’s album The Psalms (“Strange and Beautiful Psalms,” July 2017). It is a balm to me during this summer’s heat. Once you hear it, there’s no turning back.
New Language Needed
Regarding Leslie Copeland-Tune’s article “What Are Block Grants” in the June 2017 issue: I am frustrated when Medicare and Social Security are called “entitlement” programs. Of course, all who have contributed into each fund during their working lives are entitled to the benefits we receive, but Medicare is a federal health insurance program and Social Security is a federal retirement program. Unfortunately, both funds have been raided by Congress for other purposes and are now in some jeopardy. Perhaps if we used language other than “entitlements,” which gives the impression of being undeserved, these programs would be held in higher regard and protected.
Having Our Cake?
IN THE TERM that begins this fall, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The nine justices will decide: Is a baker with sincerely held religious objections to same-sex marriage obliged—by anti-discrimination laws—to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple?
But underneath the frosting, the case exemplifies a much broader conversation in which religious liberty is pitted against civil liberties. In this ongoing fight, sides are often split down partisan lines, with conservatives championing religious liberty and liberals defending civil rights.
This religious-freedom-vs.-civil-liberties split is frustrating to many. After all, religious liberty isn’t just for conservatives; the First Amendment offers important protections to all people of faith, from Muslims who seek permits to build mosques to Christians who are conscientious objectors to war. At the same time, we care deeply about civil rights, especially in an era when so many Americans face discrimination because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. In a nutshell, we want to support religious freedom for all while also protecting the civil liberties of LGBTQ folks and other minorities. But is that even possible?
Baptist minister and constitutional lawyer Oliver Thomas is optimistic, but not naive. In “Clash of Liberties,” he explains how religious liberty laws morphed from bipartisan efforts to ensure religious liberty for all into tools used by conservatives and liberals alike to press their own advantage. If we’re serious about protecting both, Thomas writes, we’re going to have to do something that’s easier said than done: lay aside our ideological differences and work for the common good.
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